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by Jean-Paul Sartre
King Aegisthus Timeline and Summary
Aegisthus orders that Electra attend the Ceremony of the Dead. When she doesn't show, he makes plans to punish her at a later date. He then decides to hold the ceremony without her. He orders his high priest to start the festivities. While the crowd bemoans their lot, Aegisthus claims to spot the ghost of Agamemnon. Aegisthus is outraged as Electra enters the scene in her white party dress. They argue; he alludes to her accursed blood-line, since she comes from the house of Atreus. He watches helplessly as Electra makes a mockery of his festival. Aegisthus tries repeatedly to silence her but can do nothing. He vows to destroy her later. When Zeus sends his sign to silence Electra, Aegisthus stops the angry mob of townspeople from attacking her. Vengeance is his, claims the King. He chooses to banish his stepdaughter and threatens to punish anyone who attempts to help her. In the throne room of the palace, Aegisthus converses with Zeus. Miserable with his life, the King reveals that he wishes to die. He refuses to prevent Orestes's would-be crime. Zeus and Aegisthus discuss the difference between this murder and the murder of Agamemnon fifteen years earlier. Aegisthus realizes that Zeus is after penitence, and not justice. Then they discuss their respective identity crises; both men have become the images they project of themselves before their subjects. They also cover the topic of freedom; Aegisthus knows that, if Orestes knows he is free, then he is a very dangerous man. When Orestes moves to kill him, Aegisthus makes no attempt to defend himself. Before Aegisthus dies, he curses both Electra and her brother. He then tells Orestes to "beware of the flies." Aegisthus dies.